Project Thrive and Youth Truth
Enchanted Circle Theater has been collaborating with the Treehouse Communities since 2008 on a wide variety of arts integrated community projects. We are currently collaborating on Project Thrive and the Youth Truth HEROES Project.
The mission of Project Thrive is to enrich the lives of infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers who are removed from their homes and placed in the public foster care system throughout the first five years of life, with special focus on establishing secure caregiver attachments, supporting optimal brain development, and providing developmentally appropriate early childhood experiences.
In this pilot year, Project Thrive is serving three groups of foster and adoptive children and their families by providing joyful learning experiences that include creative drama, art, music, dance and photography. Children and adults are immersed in structured creative play that is based on age-appropriate children’s books. Held at the Holyoke Public Library, each session includes a literacy-based visual arts activity for the children, led by educators from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. While this activity is taking place, parents have the opportunity to speak informally with therapists and social workers. The session concludes with an interactive dramatic storytelling performance that includes theater games and songs, facilitated by Enchanted Circle Theater.
The Treehouse HEROES Leadership Project is a group of youth and adults from Hampden and Hampshire counties who have experienced foster care and/or adoption.
Over the course of five months, ECT teaching artists facilitated the HEROES’ creative process incorporating writing, singing, speaking, dancing, visual art, games, and personal sharing in order for the HEROES to reflect on their histories and articulate and confront the stereotypes regarding foster care that they encounter in every day life. It was a rigorous process that provided a safe space for youth to speak their truth, experience the support of their community, and realize their creative agency.
In final performance at the Eric Carle Museum entitled Youth Truth, the HEROES called on the audience to make a personal commitment, and take action to improve the foster care system. The HEROES’ honesty, clarity, creativity, and resilience moved the audience deeply. Afterwards, HEROES reflected on how the experience had solidified their sense of belonging in their community.
In the words of the HEROES, the goal of the performance was to “enlighten the world about the strengths and talents of kids affected by foster care and adoption and encourage everyone to confront their negative assumptions about foster care and adoption.”
Youth Truth is an example of the power of art to name and transform limitations, bring a community together in support of its most vulnerable members, and empower youth to embody participant leadership. This project is possible because of the ongoing commitment of ECT, Treehouse Foundation, and Hampshire Youth Connect.
“Performing Youth Truth was a highlight for me this year because I never thought I would be able to get in front of other people to perform and be my true self.” ~ Participant, Youth Truth
“Students that were struggling readers became narrators and learned to read with ease. The students gained so much confidence. They learned how to work together cooperatively, and the value in supporting each other. This was a tremendous learning experience for all of us.”
~ 3rd grade teacher, Holyoke, MA